Eye health programme for disadvantaged children
Fostering a preventative culture
Through early diagnosis campaigns in schools and youth organisations in vulnerable areas of Catalonia and Madrid, the IMO Foundation carries out free eye examinations with the aim of preventing the most common eye disorders in childhood – such as refractive errors, amblyopia and strabismus – from going unnoticed. This is fundamental not only for ensuring the proper integration and educational achievement of children, but also to lay the foundations for good eye health in adulthood, since vision that is not gained during childhood cannot be recovered after the period of visual development (around the age of 8-10).
Therefore, the sooner visual problems are detected, the more effective the treatment, which the programme is also responsible for providing at no cost. To ensure proper adherence and to closely monitor the evolution of the schoolchildren, the IMO Foundation’s team of volunteers revisits the areas every 6 months to provide follow-up, which also helps to gradually improve the preventative culture of the environment.
After starting in 2013 in Badalona, the eye health programme for disadvantaged children expanded to other areas in the metropolitan area of Barcelona in 2014 and, in 2015, arrived for the first time in the province of Tarragona and the Madrid district of Carabanchel, as a result of social needs detected by CàritasCatalunya and La Caixa’sProInfància programme, respectively. In 2016, the project kept growing and, as a result, 3,337 eye examinations have been carried out and 683 free treatments have been prescribed during these four years.
The high percentage of children with visual problems that had not been previously diagnosed, around 25%, has resulted in the continuity of the initiative, now a well-established part of the routine of these schools and youth organisations, with a total of 8 examination campaigns in Badalona, 6 in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, 4 in Nou Barris (Barcelona), 3 in Bonavista (Tarragona) and 3 in Carabanchel (Madrid).
The importance of working as part of a network
The support of La Caixa’s Social Projects Department, under whose CaixaProInfancia programme the initiative is organised, and the collaboration of CàritasCatalunya make the implementation of this project possible. The involvement of regional agencies is other of the keys to the project’s success, since coordinated action by local entities, schools, medical centres and social services enables comprehensive ophthalmic care to be provided to children during the period of greatest importance for their visual development (from the age of 4 to 8).
In 2016, the IMO Foundation's ocular health programme for disadvantaged children provided 1,211 free eye tests (602 first visits and 609 follow-up checks), over 6 campaigns in partnership with La Caixa and 4 with CàritasCatalunya.
Checks by areas
As a result of the first visits to pupils involved in the programme this year, 177 new cases of vision problems were diagnosed with over 70% of them being refractive. However, during the follow-up checks, 320 cases were confirmed in children who had already been seen in previous rounds of the programme, mainly for refractive defects (213 cases), as well as strabismus (41), amblyopia or "lazy eye" (31) and other pathologies such as anisometropia, conjunctivitis or blepharitis (35).
As a result of these checks, 261 treatments were indicated for and provided free-of-charge to schoolchildren requiring them: specifically, 212 pairs of glasses, 39 occlusion patches and 10 eyewash treatments were provided. Among the students in follow-up, 133 optical corrections were also maintained and 13 crystal changes were made.
In addition, 23 pupils were referred to the IMO for additional tests and 818 new follow-up checks were recommended, some of which were scheduled for the successive campaigns in 2015 and others for the next year, with the aim of providing comprehensive and continued care during the visual development phase.
New diagnoses (first visits)
Treatments (first visits + follow-up)
- Obra Social "la Caixa".
- Càritas Catalunya.
- Fundación Ordesa